As we face the rising temperatures of summer, we
risk experiencing heat-related illnesses. The spectrum of these illnesses
includes sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke (also known as
sun stroke). Activity in a hot environment can overwhelm the body's ability to
cool itself, causing heat exhaustion or even heat stroke – the most serious
Heat stroke affects thousands of Americans each year and can result in a change in mental status, confusion, lethargy, risk of seizure, inability to sweat, and body temperature may exceed 106 F. This is a life-threatening condition. Elderly persons, small children, chronic invalids, those on certain medications or drugs (especially tranquilizers, antihistamines and high blood pressure medications), and persons with weight and alcohol problems are particularly susceptible to heat reactions.
“It’s possible to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke while still enjoying the outdoors,” says Bahige Asaker, DO, Internist and Medical Director for Kindred Hospital Northeast – Stoughton. “It’s critical to keep hydrated and avoid over-exerting yourself in heat and humidity.” If you have to be outside, drink plenty of fluids and take breaks in a cool place. You should avoid liquids that dehydrate you, such as caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. If vomiting is preventing the affected person from keeping fluids down, fluids will likely have to be administered intravenously. The following are some tips to keep cool and avoid heat-related illness: Stay inside as much as possible on extremely hot days. Using a fan may provide comfort, but it does not prevent heat stroke. If you do not have an air-conditioned home, visit indoor public places for a few hours. This can help your body stay cool even after you leave the air conditioned location. If you cannot get to an air conditioned location, it helps to take a cool shower or a bath to get your body temperature down. If you are going to be outdoors, choose to go out in the early morning or evening hours. The temperature is cooler at these times, making it a good opportunity to exercise or accomplish other outdoor tasks. Increase your fluid intake. Prevent heat stroke by drinking water frequently – even when you are not thirsty. This can help prepare your body for extreme heat. If you’re being active, drink two to four glasses of cool water every hour. Wear loose-fitting, well-ventilated, thin clothing in light colors. Wear a wide brimmed hat to prevent extreme sun exposure on the face and neck. Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the refrigerator. Spray the cool water on your face and body when you feel hot.
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